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#MoneyMatters is a Q&A category based on questions I have received on the topic of Christians and wealth, money & possessions. If you have a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org , and I do my best in writing a response!
If there’s one thing everyone has to deal with, it’s money. It’s impossible to live and raise a family in this world without dealing with money. Unfortunately, money issues are frustrating and tend to cause problems. In fact, among couples, it’s often the first thing to be ignored, resulting in pulling couples apart. I want to offer three questions that will help all of us to discuss and decide how to use our financial resources more effectively.
Before looking at the three questions, we have to realize we often live in complex and diverse family situations. Here is a brief outline of where we may find ourselves:
Before a relationship…
As a single person without kids, there is one decision maker and one receiver. It’s still possible to be in financial crisis; however, all decisions are made by one person and affect that same individual. As a result, working through how to spend money is fairly simple and can often be decided by sticking to a personal budget.
In a relationship…
As a couple, the situation is completely different. Instead of one decision maker and one receiver, there are two decision makers and two receivers. Decisions are no longer one-sided, they take on the needs of two people and impact two people. In a relationship, it’s very important to learn how to talk about money matters.
In a relationship with kids…
As a family, there is a new dynamic added. There are still two decision makers; however, now, there is at least one more receiver (depending on how many kids). Two people are making decisions which impact a number of other people. As a result, it’s very important to make sure the family is on the same page as they discuss money matters.
Kids with no spouse…
As a single parent family, the situation is slightly different again. Instead of two decision makers, there is one decision maker and a number of receivers. While it may seem this is easier, the pressure is on one decision maker to ensure all receivers are taken care of. Without a doubt, it’s vital to ask the right questions to make sure the budget is balanced and healthy for the family.
Mature relationship with grown-up kids…
As a mature family, the focus changes from direct receivers, to being supportive of many receivers. Once the kids have grown up and start their own families, financial discussions and decisions directly impact the couple, but no longer have the same affect on their once dependent children. Their financial decisions do, however, have the potential to help support the newly formed immediate families.
In either situation, the key is understanding that there is always at least one receiver, and in many cases, several receivers. In other words, the financial decisions we all personally make, affect those around us. Therefore, no matter where we find ourselves, the following three questions will help guide our financial discussions and decisions.
Whether you think you ask questions or not, everyone asks questions when we discuss money matters. The most common question we ask will focus on WHAT we, or our spouse, spend money on. In other words, as soon as we see or talk about a purchase, we often focus on the product or service in question and immediately determine if it’s profitable for our desires. We’ll ask, “what in the world have you bought now?” or “how many of those do we need?” While we may have reasonable concerns, our focus needs to be on the receivers in our lives and not only ourselves. To do this, we need to ask three important questions:
1. WHY are we spending money on this product or service?
In order to make healthy financial decisions, we need to make sure we know WHY. We need to set goals and objectives that are profitable for the receivers in our lives. We may never fully understand the WHAT, but if we can discuss the WHY, there is a better chance we’ll understand each other.
2. WHEN are we spending money on this product or service?
Some purchases are required immediately; however, others can be placed on a timeline according to the priority of the receivers in our family. We can understand the WHY, and know it follows our goals and objectives, but if we don’t decide WHEN to purchase it, we may spend outside our means or avoid a purchase that is more important.
3. HOW are we going to make it happen?
If we know the WHY and the WHEN we have to figure out the HOW. We have to ask ourselves, “how will we pay for this purchase?” The answer to this question could be as simple as placing it in your personal budget; however, it could also be as complicated as adjusting the WHEN in order to save for the purchase. The HOW could also be to chose to use our current savings, cashing in an investment, or as simple as using a gift-card. In either case, a healthy financial decision will include an answer to this question.
Let’s look at a few examples…
Saving for retirement…
WHY: So we can afford to live without working after we retire. This is profitable because it benefits all receivers in the household.
WHEN: The earlier we save, the less it will impact our daily lives and the greater our savings can grow with interest before retirement. The exact timeline, however, may be determined by student loan payments and/or the costs of raising children.
HOW: By setting aside regular amounts from our income. In some cases, our employer helps contribute to this investment as well. The amount may depend on the final decision on WHEN.
Spending money on a hobby…
WHY: So we can relax and enjoy a favourite pass-time. This is definitely profitable for the receivers who enjoy the hobby, but may not be profitable for those who do not. Priority would be set based on the involvement and enjoyment of the receivers in the household.
WHEN: The hobby could be seasonal or all year long. It could require an initial investment, or an ongoing expense. Maybe the WHY has placed this on hold for a while and the WHEN could be after the kids have grown up, or another significant moment.
HOW: Depending on the cost, it could mean saving over a period of time, or placing it within the current month-to-month budget.
Supporting a local church ministry…
WHY: Helping to support a church as they help support the community with their local ministry. This is profitable for the whole family in that it practices generosity and local responsibility. Priority may be set based on the importance of the local church among the receivers. For example, a Christian would feel the responsibility of supporting their local church.
WHEN: Depending on the type of ministry, it could be helpful to make this a weekly, monthly or even an annual matter.
HOW: In its simplest form, supporting with our regular income would be most common; however, using an inheritance or investment could also be an option, especially for one-time projects.
As we continue to make important financial decisions, I hope and pray these three strategic questions will help develop our final decisions. While the examples used here show a particular rational, it is very important to use our own specific contexts as we discuss our financial decisions. These three simple questions of WHY, WHEN and HOW will help us do just that and make choices that help benefit the entire household.
In terms of a direct biblical response to this question, refer to Part 2 of the Money Matters series on Bethel’s podcast: http://podcast.bethelbr.com/?p=216